Friday, 30 October 2009

Thayumanavar one of the great saints of Southern India has left the following challenging poem:

You may control a mad elephant;
You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
You may ride a lion;
You may play with the cobra;
By alchemy you may eke your livelihood;
You may wander through the universe incognito;
You may make vassals of the gods;
You may be ever youthful;
You may walk on water and live in fire;
But control of the mind is better and more difficult.
Autobiography of a Yogi

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Ward Off Energy

Here is an approach to Ward Off energy using some of the techniques I learned from Dr.Fehmi in my training with him and from practising with his CDs.
To begin, adopt the posture shown here by Michael.
Relax and feel your feet on the ground. Feel your head as if it is connected to heaven by a string. Now become aware of, and feel, the space around your body and the space between your arms and your body. Now bring your attention to your breath. Breath into your neck, filling the whole area with energy. When breathing out leave this space empty (and full of space). On the next breath fill the neck again and expand your awareness into your shoulders breathing in energy and as you breath out leave the whole area empty and full of space. Repeat the process , breathing next to and filling right into your elbows. Then to your wrists and finally right to the finger tips. Each time you breath out feel your arms becoming more empty, more full of space. Now stay in this posture and allow yourself to become aware of the space around your arms and between your arms and your body. Allow yourself to feel the aliveness of the space between your body and your arms. As you practice, your experience will become more rich, more full, and more fun.
I would love to hear this exercise works for you too.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Finally REALISING that I practice not to get somewhere but to be here now !

Friday, 23 October 2009

More about Lester

Lester . . . “Wait a minute!” he thought. “If happiness is when I’m experiencing love for the other one, then that means happiness is a feeling within me.
“And if I felt unloving in the past? Well, I know I can’t change the past, but could I possibly correct the feeling now inside myself? Could I change the feeling to love now?” He decided to try it. He looked at his most recent unhappiness, the day he left the hospital.
“First,” he asked himself, “was I experiencing a lack of love that day?”
“Yes,” he answered aloud. “Nobody gave a damn about me, not the nurses, not the orderlies, not even Dr. Schultz. They did not care. As sick as I was, they threw me out, sent me home to die so they wouldn’t have to watch one of their failures . . . well, the hell with them. They can all go to hell.” He was shocked at the vehemence in his voice. His body trembled with rage and he felt weak. He really hated the doctor: He could feel it burning in his chest. “Oh, boy,” he thought, “this sure isn’t love.”
“Well, can I change it?” he asked. “Is it possible to turn it into love for the doctor?”
“Hell, no,” he thought, “why should I? What did he ever do to deserve any love?”
“That’s not the point,” he answered himself. “The point is not whether he deserves love. The point is, can you do it? Is it possible to simply change a feeling of hatred into a feeling of love—not for the benefit of the other person but for yourself?”
As the thought crossed his mind, he felt something break loose in his chest. A gentle easing, a sense of dissolving, and the burning sensation was gone. He didn’t trust it at first. It seemed too easy, so he pictured again the scene with Dr. Schultz in the hospital. He was surprised to find that it brought only a mild feeling of resentment rather than the previous intense burning hatred. He wondered if he could do it again.
“Lets see,” he thought, “what did I just do? . . . Oh, yes. Can I change this feeling of resentment into a feeling of love?” He chuckled as he felt the resentment dissolve in his chest. Then it was totally gone and he was happy. He thought of Dr. Schultz again, pictured him in his mind and felt happy, even loving. He saw now, reliving that last meeting, how the doctor had hated to tell him the things he had to say. He could feel the doctor’s pain at having to tell a young man in the prime of his life that his life was over. “Dr. Schultz, you son-of-a-gun,” he said, grinning, “I love you.”
“Well, it worked on that one,” he thought. “If my theory is sound, then it should work on everything.” Eagerly, he began trying it on other moments, and the results were consistently the same. Each time that he asked himself if he could change the feeling of hostility or anger or hatred to one of love, the dissolving process took place. Sometimes he had to repeat it over and over until he felt only love for the person. At times, the entire process would take only a minute or two; at other times, it might take him hours of working on a particular person or event before his feelings were only loving, but he would doggedly stay with it until it was completed on each person and each incident.
His entire life came up for review in bits and pieces. One by one, he changed to love all the old hurts and disappointments. He began to feel stronger as the weight of his pain dropped away. He was happier than he had ever been in his entire life, and he kept it going, feeling even more happiness with each new thing corrected.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


I have been studying the work of Lester Levenson for a while now. My great friend Margaret introduced me to his ideas a few years ago, and this year I did a Releasing Workshop with Larry Crane who teaches Lester's work. I tell this by way of introduction to an amazing experience I had lately. Releasing is all about letting go of unwanted emotions so we can recognise our true nature ( LOVE ).
All the teachings I have been studying tell me that the world is a mirror for my own mind. Larry taught me that disapproval for anybody else is actually disapproval for myself too. He teaches how to let go of this disapproving energy (not that easy for me). Anyway a friend rang, (one who presses my buttons big time and for whome I had a LOT of disapproval) inviting me to meet.
Reluctantly, I agreed telling myself that not meeting would be resistance and fear. We met and sure enough it didn't take long for my insecurity and disapproval to arise. So each time I caught myself disapproving, I would ask myself if I could release it and let it go ( hearing Larry in my head saying, and more and more and even more).I was doing this for quite a while. It began to dawn on me that it was my mind I was seeing and I began to feel grateful to her for this opportunity to release some of my negative thoughts and emotions. Before I could ask myself the next question, which is , can you give this person some approval? (for no reason !). Even before I had fully formed that question in my head, a wave of hot loving energy passed through my body. I felt healed in some deep way. I wanted to throw my arms around her. I stayed steady and in a while it seemed to me that she had softened we seemed to be more relaxed togeter than ever before and she began to open up about fears that had been bothering her. This powerful event is still on my mind. Did she soften because of the releasing? I don't know, probably never will know for certain, but all the great teachings tell us that if you change the inside the outside will change too ! Now when she comes to mind my heart fills with gratitude and love.
Larry Crane Release Technique ( if you would like to learn more).

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Yesterday I caught myself rushing to get the ware washed so I could get to the "more important" things like my tai chi. On noticing I paused to come back to the job on hand. In doing so I felt how tight this rushing had made my body and so I let go and relaxed as best I could. When I was ready to begin my tai chi I could feel a wall of resistance to actually starting. What was stopping me now from doing what I had been rushing toward ? Fear ! As soon as I got started it became clear that I was afraid I wouldn't "get" the new Chen postures I'm currently learning. Interestingly enough as soon as I caught the fear it was easy enough to let go and decide to just play with this new way of moving and be outside my comfort zone.
Recounting these experiences to friend last night I was giving myself a hard time about not being more together and he kindly reminded me of the Tibetan way. He said "remember to treat your mind gently like a mischievous puppy ". So today is a day of loving kindness for my mind and as my body works so hard for me that's' getting lots of love too.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Developing the Witness

In Order to become aware of our different modes of attention it is really helpful to develop the witness. We develop the witness by observing ourselves as we participate in our daily activities. For example I watch myself (when I remember) as I brush my teeth, notice myself tasting the toothpaste, see and feel myself enjoying my morning coffee, and watch dispassionately (as possible) the thoughts and feelings that pass through my mind. This is helpful as it gives me a distance from my emotions or as I often say to myself from " Ann's emotions. This doesn't make me cold hearted (I hope) but does help me to be more discriminating in my responses. Witnessing also develops awareness so I have more choice over my mode of attention. I can choose to widen my focus and include all my senses more often. I can pause to smell and taste the space around, listen to the sounds and the silence feel all the sensations in my body, while noticing the thoughts and feelings passing through, as I do this my eyes automatically soften into peripheral vision. When all this happens spontaneously I have dropped into diffuse immersed attention the witness is gone and " I AM " . It is an interesting paradox that by learning to observe myself, the ability to lose myself and drop into the big " SELF " develops naturally.
Sometimes the rustling in this tree filled silence is heavenly.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dr Les Fehmi

Last year I trained in open focus with Dr Fehmi. I have found that this attentional training to be of enormous benefit to my tai chi practice. Here is an excerpt from his blog to give you a taste.

Most of us are far more reactive than we need to be, and reducing reactivity is one of the things Open Focus does best.
The best way to move out of narrow-objective focus, where reactivity is most extreme, to an Open Focus state, where our attention is more inclusive and immersed, is to listen to one of the recorded exercises available on our web site, Even without the recorded exercises, though, you can sit down and let your attention become diffuse and immersed. Here's how.
Become aware of the space between your body and the walls of the room you are in. As you start to let yourself open and merge with space, you will naturally release stress and tension. To take this further, pay attention to where in your body any feelings of anxiety, fear and restlessness might be located. If you can feel pain, you can dissolve it. Simply move toward and immerse yourself in those feelings, bask in them, accept them and stop fighting. This is a skill we all can develop. The Open Focus™ approach is about attentional flexibility, which leads to release of tension, and not about trying to relax. For more information, check out our book The Open Focus Brain.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn't write anything without hope in it.”
Oscar Hammerstein II
Thanks to my fabulous daughter, Jo , for this quote

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Benefit of Knowing Where Your Happiness Lies

Have you noticed how frustrating it is to look for love and approval outside of yourself? The mind tells us that the answer id outside in the world ; when we get the job or find the perfect partner or have the right amount of money we will be "happy".

This is a lie. Even in Tai Chi practice the mind does this. It says when you understand the postures , when you feel the energy, when you are a success...but I have noticed that none of these things completely satisfy the mind . It's like the Greek story about the mermaids who lured and shipwrecked the sailors on the rocks - the mind keeps luring us with stories of what will make us happy and fulfilled.

With a practice that quietens the mind we begin to realise that the fulfillment is here already. You're already whole and complete. This does not lead to becoming lethargic and having a 'couldn't care less' attitude. Paradoxically, you become more fully present and engaged in everything you do.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Benefit of Persistance

When I was in Secondary school I was about three and a half stone or fifty pounds heavier than I am now.I wanted to do something about it. A medical student I knew got me a diet plan and I embarked on the diet and began walking to and from school. Each week I lost around a pound weight. I will always be grateful to my cousin Laurence who used to come for tea on Tuesday evenings. His encouragement made all the difference. He would ask how I was getting on with the diet, tell me how much better I was looking and how it was really working. I also encouraged myself by buying magazines with diet success stories and books about how to deal with 'food issues'.

When I began Tai Chi , I 'unconsciously' did the same. I read books about people who had succeeded, stories that inspired me , tales of people who, like me, felt they didn't have great talent at their art but plenty of 'love' for it. I didn't bother me that it took me 5 years to learn my first short form; I enjoyed each posture I learned. It did bother me that the applications were complete double dutch to me and I regularly felt completely stupid. But I kept going , knowing that my teacher said "The student needs 3 elements to succeed - talent, persistence and a good teacher," and of the three the one you needed least was talent. I spent time with my teachers and fellow students to absorb the feel of Tai Chi . Slowly , applications and postures revealed themselves (and still do) .

Last year I read of a heart surgeon who has a high rate of recovery among his patients. He encourages his patients to join a support group and be mentored by survivors who help them adopt new ways to live and be happy.

This is what we do when we learn Tai Chi. We find new ways to spend our time . We learn to look inside to find our own answers. We find support and inspiration in our group and much much more.

There are very few photos of me from that time but as soon as I find one I'll show you so you can see for yourself the change.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

When you have been practicing tai chi for a while it is easy to take some of the benefits for granted. I have been thinking a lot about this over the last few days. For example you come expect to have a healthy body, and be full of energy with bright shinning eyes glowing skin a spring in your step. As you progress more subtle benefits such as a much greater awareness of energy. A more sensitive response to and understanding of people and an ability to see things from a bigger perspective or even sometimes from many different perspectives simultaneously also become second nature.
For those of you just beginning here is the second lesson.

Ward Off Left, thanks to Michael.

Ward Off Left from Heartworker on Vimeo.

God guard me from the thoughts men think
In the mind alone.
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow bone.
I am 20 years studying Tai Chi and it still amazes me how these simple postures engross, inspire and rejuvenate me. Chances are, that if you are reading this, you too are captivated by this art and , like me, find it impossible to express in words the depth of your feeling. Or maybe you have just begun Tai Chi and are checking out the Blog . If so, there are lots of benefits to practising this art and I am planning to write about them . How long will this take? I don't know..let's just see where it takes us!

It takes time to learn the postures of Tai Chi and in the daily repetition of postures and then "forms" the art slowly reveals itself to you ,and in doing so reveals you to yourself. It teaches awareness of the ebb and flow in the body's energy/. You learn to witness the moods that pass through your awareness. It gives a centre in difficult times - a source of inspiration which can always be found inside no matter what is going on outside in your world.

Lately it feels to me, as if all the cells of my body sing as soon as I begin to practise . It is a chorus of thanks for shining the light of consciousness back into the body and the cells rejoice at being bathed in the awareness or 'Chi' which results.

So, if you have just begun or , like me, are a long time lover of Tai Chi , enjoy your practise today..

See you soon again

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Attention Preparation Beginning

Brendan practicing Ward Off Left with the Cork beginners.

Introduction, Preparation, Beginning from Yin&Yang on Vimeo.